New mobile ‘action links’ allow users to take specific actions in other apps without leaving Facebook

Facebook appears to be testing its “action links” feature on mobile, making it easy for users to engage with third-party apps without leaving Facebook.

For example, when a user sees a friend’s story about checking into a location on Foursquare, they have a prominent option to “save this place.” If the user is logged into Foursquare, they can click the button to add the location to their Foursquare “to-do list” without ever leaving the Facebook mobile app. That action also generates a story on the user’s own Timeline.

Any developer can create custom action links to increase the viral potential of each story about their app that appears in News Feed. These sort of integrations promote discovery and re-engagement for mobile and web apps connected with the social network. If a user has not already added an app, they can be directed to add the app when they click on an action link.

Developers can designate an action link for any action they define in their app. Similar to the Foursquare example, Spotify could add a “add to playlist” action link on stories about a song or artist. Pinterest could allow users to repin items directly from the Facebook feed. Words With Friends might want to include a “play with this friend” or “challenge” link in its stories. This would allow users to easily begin a new game with the friend whose activity they saw in their feed.

[Update 7/16/12 12:30 p.m. PT – Spotify has already integrated action links to allow users to star songs as a favorite via the Facebook mobile site, Adweek’s Tim Peterson found.]

Facebook introduced action links to the desktop News Feed in May. Before then, users could Like or comment on app activity or click to visit an app, but there weren’t app-specific calls to action that functioned the way action links now do. Facebook’s documentation on the feature still says this is unavailable on mobile, but we saw the Foursquare action link live on Sunday night. Facebook has not yet offered us details on whether this is available to everyone or in limited beta for now.

Here is how the Foursquare example works:

User sees action link in Facebook News Feed when a friend checks in on Foursquare.

User clicks “save this place” and location is saved in Foursquare without the user having to leave the Facebook app.

Story is pushed to a user’s “recent activity” section of Timeline.

Next time user visits the Foursquare app, the saved location will be included on the user’s to-do list.


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